United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Licensing Requirements for Professional Services
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The UK left the EU on 1 January, 2020, and the transition period (during which EU rules continued to apply in the UK) ended on 31 December, 2020. The Services Directive, a European Union law aiming at establishing a single market for services within the European Union (EU), therefore no longer applies to the UK, or to European Economic Area (EEA) businesses or individuals providing services in the UK. However, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 preserved the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (as amended in 2014) for UK nationals and businesses established in the UK and formed under UK law.

In 2018, the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) made additional amendments to the Regulations to ensure they continued to work after the UK’s exit from the EU. A further technical amendment was made by BEIS in 2020 to set out that the 2018 amendments will come into force at the end of the transition period. In 2023, BEIS was split to form the Department for Business & Trade (DBT). The Department for Energy Security and New Zero (DESNZ), and the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT). These UK Government organizations are now responsible for overseeing these regulations, particularly the DBT.

Types of services that the Regulations apply to include, but are not limited to:

Business services: management consultancy; professional services such as lawyers, accountants, and actuaries; advertising; certification and testing; facilities management, including office maintenance; fitting and maintenance of equipment; renting of equipment; logistics; waste management; training providers; the services of commercial agents; and the organization of trade fairs.

Services provided to both business and to consumers: estate agents and letting agents; conveyancing; construction services such as architects and builders; restaurants and catering services; distributive trades; postal services; storage services; and financial advisers.

Consumer services: tourism, including tour operators and tour guides; travel agents; leisure services and sports centers; child minders; amusement parks; private schools and universities; providers of post graduate studies, language schools, vocational training; driving instructors; MOT (previously known as the Ministry of Transport test) services; entertainment; beauty services; veterinarians; gardeners; cleaners; plumbers; joiners; and electricians.

A service is within scope of the Regulations unless it is explicitly excluded from them. The main exclusions are:

  • financial services
  • electronic communications services
  • transport services including air transport, maritime and inland waterways transport
  • services of temporary work agencies
  • healthcare services
  • audio-visual services
  • gambling services
  • activities connected with the exercise of official authority
  • social services
  • private security services
  • services provided by notaries

The Regulations apply to all businesses operating in a services sector, and work on the principle of ‘if you are not excluded, you are included’, so examining the list of excluded sectors may clarify what is in their scope (see the above section on ‘Which services are excluded from the Regulations?’). The Regulations contain rules relating to the provision of services by “permanent” providers. Permanent providers are those (whether individuals or companies) who are “established” or based at premises in the UK.

If a business is within the scope of the Regulations, certain requirements will need to be observed regarding the provision of information to service recipients and the handling of complaints. These duties apply to all providers operating in the UK regardless of where they originate.

Guidance published by DESNZ (formerly BEIS) and updated by DBT can be viewed on the Provision of Services Regulations.

This guidance will help businesses understand what steps they need to take to provide services within the UK. The Provision of Services Regulations protect UK businesses and consumer rights by ensuring that the regulation of service activity is proportionate and justified in the public interest.

License finder: Businesses wishing to provide a service in the UK must check what authorizations and licenses will be needed. Businesses can search online for licenses using the License finder.

If you require further information on Services and Licensing, please contact DBT directly.